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How to Be Alone: Essays (2002)

by Jonathan Franzen

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2,227304,843 (3.56)58
The author of The Corrections reprints his 1996, "The Harper's Essay," offering additional writings that consider a central theme of the erosion of civic life and private dignity and the increasing persistence of loneliness in postmodern America.
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    Trouble: Stories by Patrick Somerville (woollams812)
    woollams812: This wonderful collection of humor is a gem in paper form.
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» See also 58 mentions

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Loved it. Learned that I was a 'social isolate' as a kid, which explains my intense reading habit...always love finding someone like you in a book. ( )
  szbuhayar | May 24, 2020 |
I haven't read any of Franzen's work before this book. I found most of the essays to be meandering news summaries ("Lost in the Mail" "Control Units") or book reports ("First City" "Mr Difficult"). Hard to understand the draw. However, to be transparent, the limpness of the content meant l did a bunch of quick page turning. I did like the partitioning of letter writers into "refiners, resonators, and rebutters." ( )
  sarcher | May 18, 2019 |
A collection of highly cultured and literate essays that were previously published in New Yorker, Harpers and other “respected” periodicals. “Why Bother?” is an awesome piece on the state of the social novel. “My Father’s Brain” is a moving piece about his father’s descent into Alzheimer’s and the impact on family. Pretty good stuff. He does have a tendency to be “writerly” perhaps for the sake of being “writerly”, but I proudly felt I was being a “relevant reader” with this esteemed contemporary author. Yes, I know I’m a little late to the party here. I did think it was cool that his 2001 book, The Corrections (which was lauded as the new GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL) was asked to be featured in Oprah’s club, but Franzen bemoaned the status and was cancelled as a guest. That kind of attracted me to him. ( )
  starlight17 | Mar 19, 2019 |
La estrella que le falta es por algunos ensayos que, aunque están indudablemente bien escritos, no lograron el impacto fulminante de los demás.

Este es el primer libro que leo de Franzen, en preparación a su obra más celebrada, [b:Las correcciones|88309|Las correcciones|Jonathan Franzen|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1424026487s/88309.jpg|941200]. En este libro, Franzen logra un acercamiento personalísimo a la forma del ensayo literario. Sus temas, muy variados: desde el sistema penitenciario estadounidense hasta el servicio de correo postal, desde la enfermedad de su padre moribundo hasta los libros de auto-ayuda sexual y las novelas de [a:William Gaddis|15991|William Gaddis|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1414608521p2/15991.jpg]. Todos, con un sutil tema en común: la tremenda soledad que subyace en toda vida humana. La soledad del lector, del escritor, del reo y de sus guardias, del que espera una carta, del que regresa a casa para encontrarla vacía, del que agoniza, del que ve sus ilusiones irse con el agua de la regadera. Este es un libro excepcional, y estoy emocionado de leer más de Franzen.

Por si tienen la oportunidad de leer alguno de estos ensayos sueltos, les recomiendo unos cuantos, que fueron mis favoritos: "My father's brain", sobre la enfermedad y muerte de su padre, "Mr. Difficult", sobre William Gaddis y las novelas difíciles, y "Meet me in St. Louis", sobre el siempre difícil regreso a la casa donde se crece, después de muchos años. ( )
  LeoOrozco | Feb 26, 2019 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Apr 2012):
- A little over a year ago I read The Corrections, which I wasn't over the moon for, but whose epic ambitions were enough to get me interested in checking out more Franzen... My curiosity was assuaged by plucking this off the neglected Essay shelf at my trusty used bookstore. This collection was assembled..partly in response to a mass misreading or misunderstanding of an essay he wrote for Harper's in 1996, in which..he seemed to eviscerate the state of the American novel. He liberally edited and clarified the piece for this book, hoping to show himself less cynical, it would seem.
- ..this streamlined rewrite, titled "Why Bother?", is, well, let me file it under 'required reading' for any avid reader or writer. The guy loves his craft.
- Two essays I particularly liked here were "My Father's Brain", the first story, about his father's slow melt into Alzheimers dementia and his seemingly determined fight to retain a fragment of "Self" in the process. A very intimate piece that quotes parts of his mother's letters avowing the early signs of mental fracture. Another I liked is "Control Units", an essay about his visit to a high tech corrections facility campus in Colorado (a Supermax), in which he interviews high security inmates and tours the eerily quiet, highly polished environment. The promise of economic prosperity for the local towns hasn't followed in the wake of the behemoth, and Franzen ponders this and other issues cogently, I think.
- In all but the shortest essays here, Franzen provides interesting historical context, (we read about the early pioneers in the study of dementia, as well as his interpretation of modern studies, for example), and to good effect. As a whole I eagerly recommend - and a good place to start if you've not read him. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Nov 19, 2018 |
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Für Kathy Chetkovich
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Mein dritter Roman, Die Korrekturen, an dem ich viele Jahre gearbeitet hatte, erschien eine Woche vor dem Einsturz des World Trade Center. (aus "Ein Wort zu diesem Buch")
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